Archive for March, 2006

Today we did washes. First with watercolours…..

painting with katherine
Then with bathtubs!

Seriously, though, it was much easier to explain the concept of a watercolour wash to Katherine, who is just over three, than it was to explain the Mona Lisa. When asked why the lady didn't have hair on her forehead, you CANNOT tell a preschooler that it was shaved/cut off because they thought it was more beautiful then. Trust me on this one. You don't mess with a kid's idea of how long their hair should be, especially when they can use scissors.

She was better with van Eyke's "The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini and Giovanna Cenami, Dated 1434." It's full of symbols that are fairly blunt and basic in their meanings. Of course, her summation is that, "it's about a wedding and the lady was wearing a green dress and has a dog and a mirror."

Okay, she's three. We'll cut her some slack for a few months.

As you can see from the above work, we were discussing the use of colour to depict creative chaos.

The work at upper left is symbolic of artistic mental turmoil exemplified through the use of an unfamiliar medium. (A kid frantically using her mother's expensive paints before her mother finds out)

Upper right demonstrates a refining of the artist's touch so as to better demonstrate the calmness and lightness of being that one feels upon the release of stress. (Mommy wasn't mad.)

Lower left is Mommy goofing around with sunsets.

Lower right is the artist releasing pent-up rage on canvas through the violent application of greens and burnt umber in such a fashion as to symbolise frustration and strength of will. (A child denied the right to splatter green all over her mother's sunset.)

As you can see, creativity is often born of strong emotions…..



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What's on my desk on Oct 6, 2005Every day I get a few hits from people who are trying to track down other craftspeople and artists in Newfoundland. For instance, since my post on my odd habit of keeping pebbles in pottery bowls,I've had a consistent stream of hits from people searching for Christina Dove of Dove Pottery. (Christina doesn't yet have a website, but you can contact her using this information!)

In light of the fact that people seem to be using me as a leaping point for finding other artists and artisans in this fine province, I've created a page of links that will hopefully provide the searcher with a plethora of avenues through which to find what they seek.

The discerning among you will notice that the above link to Christina Dove is to a page in the Craft Council Studio Guide. Our Craft Council has put a great deal of effort and money into developing a guide to the studios of artists and artisans across Newfoundland and Labrador. It's a great web resource and an even better paper publication, well worth picking up. It's also free…..

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I picked this book up last night by grace of the generosity of friends. It's one I've heard raved and rhapsodised about on several listservs, discussion groups and blogs. Perhaps because of this, I delayed buying it for a bit. Silly, I realise, but I tend to shy away from trends almost instinctively. Perhaps it's because there can be a sameness to the work of people who use the same books as road maps. It may be that I simply have a good bit of teenage rebellion left unchecked. Most probably, it's just my heel-digging reluctance to jump on bandwagons. (As a side note, have you ever noticed how people jump on bandwagons and fall off wagons? Is there a correlation?)

Now that I have the book, though, I will say that it's worth having. More than that, I will kick myself for not having bought it earlier.

This book is not a how-to. It's not a limited notion of how to construct and embellish fabric books. It's a toolbox of ways and means of performing techniques that could be used in fabric books. They could equally be used in personal shrines, wallhangings and heaven knows what else. It is fabulous, though, to have them pulled together.

For instance, there's an entire section on ways of putting text in a book. If you're stuck for inspiration on how to finish the edges of a page or wallhanging, there's a full section on the possibilities, complete with pictures so that you can see what the resulting effect might be.

The photos are good. The text is well-written and full of additional possibilities and inspiration. In effect, it lays out the basics of embellishing a fabric book and then gives you the tools to continue along yourown merry path of creativity.

There's plenty of eye candy, a number of references to excellent web resources and a long list of where to get materials and supplies. The section on materials to use at the beginning of the book discusses what to use, when and why. Most importantly, from my perspective, is that it doesn't rely on huge quantities of expensive stuff or equipment. In fact, there's a section devoted to making a book on a budget and incorporating everyday items.

If I were recommending a book on making fabric books to anyone, I'd send them in the direction of this book AND Fabric Art Journals by Pam Sussman. The Art of Fabric Books excels at the pages, their layout and embellishment, while Sussman's book does a bang-up job on codicology (book structure and construction). They are different, yet complementary works and the combination is as good an introduction as one could ever hope for and then some!

Synopsis: Absolutely worth buying, if you have any interest at all in either art quilting or fabric books. 

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As promised, here is my quick review of the first of two books I picked up last night.

Because a person's motives for picking up a book can have as much to do with their assessment of it as anything, I'll let you in on my incentive; I am not overly-partial to spending huge amounts of time doing hand embroidery. I like the look of it in certain situations, I can do quite a few stitches quite adeptly, but I simply don't really enjoy it. I have come to the realisation that this phenomenon may be partially due to my lack of patience and partially due to my inability to make embroidery look like it belongs in the piece. Sometimes embroidered work can look more like embroidery than like a part of the picture as a whole and that's not my style.

So I picked up this book because it starts with the premise that embroidery can be integrated into the work as a whole and not look like it was simply dropping on as an afterthought.

The Art of Embroidered Flowers has good photos, clear instructions and is well-written. It mercifully assumes that you have a working knowledge of your sewing machine, how to prepare fabric, how to mix dyes and how to use fabric paints. I say "mercifully", because so many books run over the same old basics and waste pages of space on something that should be gleaned from another book altogether. But I digress.

The basic premise of this book is that a background should be painted and overpainted before adding embroidery. Stitching can be either by hand or machine (it talks about both and their individual effects on a piece) and is laid over a background of dye, paint and inks. These last set the background tones for the piece and relieve the possibility of there being blank spaces behind stitching or a sharp contrast between the stitching and the background fabric. In essence, Baron demonstrates how to make a transition between stitching and horizon; creating the blended backdrop for the relief that stitching provides.

She also discusses in some detail the concept of dying embroidery flosses with the dyes used in creating the background canvas so as to achieve a unison between foreground and background.

The pieces she uses as examples are small and mounted on paper for framing. While there are a few projects or exercises in the book, it primarily concentrates on helping the student to create their own landscape.

The focus of the embroidery is flowers, grasses and a few vague birds. Everything is done with four stitches; the running, seed and fly stitches and the French knot. This limited palette of stitches could be a hindrance to some, but for those who cringe at the thought of embroidery, it might actually be liberating. She limits the book to developing the potential for these stitches in landscape work, but mentions a whole array of further possibilities at the end, including other stitches, beading, lace, stump-work and whatever else tickles the fancy of the individual.

What I like about this tome is how it integrates paint, dye and floss fairly seamlessly. I'd recommend it to anyone who loved making landscape quilts but had avoided hand embroidery or who had difficulty in integrating hand-painting, machine stitching and hand-embroidering into the same piece.

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With a heapin' pile o' thanks to Ryan Wolf at Variance Art for the belly laugh when most I needed one, I pass along to you this link from the National Association of Independent Artists.

As an aside, I highly recommend having a long hard look at Variance's work. He does some fabulous stuff and has, to my eye, an incredible precision and artistry the likes of which I have seen no where else. His style of work is quite evocative of da Vinci's pen and ink drawings and Ryan's fascination with and use of the body as metaphor is breathtaking.

When you are an artist, you lay a certain amount of your persona bare and publicise a great deal of what you hold dear to you. Inevitably, you either quit, develop a thick skin, or learn to laugh hard and long at the world around you. If you're lucky, you do both of the last two.

My personal favourites from the afore-mentioned site are (n.b. these are cut and pasted from the NAIA site. All credit for accumulating them should be attributed to the NAIA):

When I was a student we had a show that included demonstrations of the different classes taught at the school, one of which was raku. We had been watching a blown glass demo and someone announced that they would soon be unloading the kiln for a demo of raku firing techniques. Close by were two sweet older ladies sitting on a bench and immediately one asked the other, "But what about the RACCOONS?! They don't hurt them do they? Would they use a REAL raccoon?" I HAD to set them straight even though I was about to fall over laughing and to this day whenever I see or do raku pottery, I think of the raccoons. Your collection of things overheard at fairs is a riot!
Thanks, Lisanne Garvin

One of my first shows was an outdoor show that my 12 year old daughter was helping me with. An elderly gentleman walked into my booth and asked my daughter if this was her work, with which she replied: "No, it's my Dad's work". I was standing nearby talking to another person, but over heard her conversation. After a minute or so of looking at my work (and still not aware that I was there) the old man said "this is pretty good stuff, but it's kind of expensive…..is your father dead? Quickly she answered with a straight face "No, but he's working on it."

My ex-wife does black and white landscape photography of Scotland, which is her homeland. At one show I overheard a young man tell his date: "WOW! I didn't know everything in Scotland was black and white!"

A man walked into booth, looked at my drawings and asked, "Is this prison art?" I replied, "No, what do you mean by prison art?" "Well I used to be a chaplain at the local prison and many of the prisoners do work just like this but better. Are you sure the artist isn't in prison?" Partly offended and partly amused, I looked him square in the eyes and said, "Not yet."

Frustrated Judge to artist who has demanded to know why he did not receive an award. “Your work is good and original, unfortunately your good work is not original and your original work is not very good.”

I'm a photographer and have been asked if I have any pictures of unicorns. I have also been asked (more than once, I might add) if I was there when I took those pictures. Some of us work hard at making a nice display. A jeweler friend of mine won an award at a show and hung his ribbon on his backdrop panels which were nice wood folding screens with fabric panel inserts. A man come up to his booth and told him that the award was well deserved for such beautiful looking screens!

This is slightly related to the thread below, which I agree is wonderful. Like many artists at the shows, I spend so much time explaining what I do that I'm constantly reminded of a comment by Picasso on that subject: "Everyone wants to understand painting. Why doesn't one try to understand the song of a bird? Why does one like the night, a flower, all that surrounds us without trying to understand them. Whereas they want to understand painting."

A friend of mine was having a very bad show and her attitude was slowly going in that direction as well. As she was sitting in her booth she recognized a past customer entering her booth and her hopes were rekindled. After looking around a little bit the woman approached my friend and expressed a deep appreciation for my friend's work. She told my friend that she wanted to support all her efforts over the past years by thanking her for being an artist. The customer than went back to looking at the work. My friend thanked her and went to the back of her booth for something. When she came back out, the woman had left. My friend was thinking that if the woman really wanted to support her she should have bought a piece. As my friend went to sit down there was an envelope on her chair. My friend sat down and opened it. Inside was a $100 bill and a note that said, "Thank You".

Two beautifully dressed women stopped in front of a booth in Atlanta and one said to her friend "Aren't these beautiful?""Yes" she replied, "ALL this is so beautiful. I wonder how they find time to make it?" "Well", explained the first, "none of them work."

Heard at the AASAF: "George, look at all these artists! Where did they all come from?" George: "Oh well, you know Alice, the auto plants have been laying off a lot of people lately.

Heard in Detroit: An elderly lady and her daughter come around the corner from a side street onto the art fair. Says the elderly lady to her daughter, "Oh my, look at all this mess"

As a woodturner, I take a lot of pride in converting an ordinary piece of
wood into a beautifully shaped and finished hollow vessel. A visitor to my
exhibit once asked 'what kind of trees are these that grow into these

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New Reading Material

Just picked up a couple of new books, courtesy of the generosity of friends. The folks whose computer I resurrected surprised me with a Chapters gift certificate the other day and I treated myself to two new books. The first is The Art of Fabric Books, by Jan Bode Smiley which I've had my eye on for some time now and the second is The Art of Embroidered Flowers, by Gilda Baron. Both look fabulous. After I've had a day or two to digest them, i'll write something up. The timing was wonderful – just what I needed after everything that's gone on this week!

Now, off for a read…..

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stones overpainted

First, thanks to everyone who emailed, volunteered to bring food, sent virtual hugs and drove me around in snow storms to find my husband at the hospital. I sincerely appreciate it!

Despite the car wreck, sick child and aching husband, I seem to be back on track today. Yesterday afternoon the phone lines went down (just came back up this morning) and we were in the midst of a blizzard. John was at the hospital to see about his back and shoulders and I was trapped in the house with a child who would not sleep. Couldn't take her out. Couldn't check email. Couldn't phone anyone and John couldn't phone me and didn't know that the phone was out because all he got was incessant ringing.

Things are going better this morning. I did my exercises (situps, leg-lifts, stretches and pushups – I'm improving!) and might even be able to get some aerobic exercise by running up and down stairs. Drives the dogs mad, but that's not my problem.

Katherine is quiet, but not miserable. I think I may be making progress on the stones piece above. I overpainted it with fabric paints, which seem to make the sharp lines of the pastels blend a bit better. In fact, it almost appears that the dyes of the pastels bled a bit (good in this case), but that could be simply the similarity in hues of pastel and paint.

The upper piece is the over-painted version and the lower is the pastels sans paint. 

pastel sketchAnyway, it's coming along nicely. My current plan is to work in borders that continue the picture, using hand-painted fabrics appliqued or stitiched to continue the development of the dominant foreground features. How well this will work remains to be seen!

I'm also working on a second piece depicting this same circle, facing east as the sun rises. It's going to have a completely different tone than the above piece. Must get this piece done so as to free up room for the next!

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